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TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME

For those who find David Lynch’s films glib or shallow, take heed: with FIRE WALK WITH ME he wasn’t kidding. It’s the darkest, scariest movie Lynch has ever made, but also the most disjointed, representing Lynch at his most vital and his most flawed.

The Package
     FIRE WALK WITH ME was the big screen prequel to the iconic David Lynch produced TV series TWIN PEAKS. Never mind that the show was cancelled in 1991 after just two seasons, and that Lynch went from media darling to pariah. FWWM, released in 1992 by New Line Cinema, only made things worse. It was booed at Cannes and released to widespread critical hostility. It was no coincidence, Lynch claims, that his popular comic strip “The Angriest Dog in the World” ended its run that same year.
     FWWM has since attained a following, but continues to be disrespected. For years fans (and David Lynch himself) have been trying to get a reported several hours’ worth of FWWM’S deleted scenes released on DVD but have thus far been unsuccessful. The reason? Lynch wants to clean up and remaster the deleted footage to match the quality of the film, but New Line doesn’t want to shell out for it. Hence, the fans get screwed.

The Story
     In a small Washington town the corpse of one Teresa Banks is found. Two quirky inspectors are charged with examining the body and tracking down the killer. The inspectors’ search turns up a tiny square of paper imprinted with a letter under one of the dead girl’s fingernails.
     Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Special Agent Dale Cooper has a series of weird dreams that seem to foretell the future. His latest dream suggests that the next killing will occur in the town of Twin Peaks, and the victim will be a teen girl who’s sexually active and taking drugs. Albert, Cooper’s gruff supervisor, claims that description covers “half the teenage girls in America,” but Cooper has in mind one specific individual: a troubled young woman named Laura Palmer.
     Laura is a good-looking cheerleader who snorts cocaine, turns tricks and is stringing along seemingly every guy in the town. Each night she’s molested by Bob, a freaky guy who enters through her bedroom window. It’s beginning to dawn on her that Bob may actually be somebody else, and before long that individual is revealed to Laura as her own father!
     This revelation sends Laura into a tailspin. Her sexual exploits and drug use grow increasingly out of control until finally Bob, in the form of Laura’s father, decides to put an end to her exploits--and her life.

The Direction
     For those who complain that this film has too little in common with TWIN PEAKS the series, they’re right. FIRE WALK WITH ME is so different in tone and style from its televised forerunner it should really be viewed as a separate entity. Many of the film’s weakest moments occur when Lynch attempts to reference TWIN PEAKS in a succession of brief scenes that go nowhere, and will be incoherent to anyone unfamiliar with the series (such as the old man who berates Laura and her father at a stop light, or a green ring that gets passed back and forth).
     There’s also the problem of the opening half hour, in which Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaac play detectives in search of the killer of Teresa Banks. Neither character is very compelling, and both are dropped after thirty minutes. The sequence serves no purpose that I can see other than to provide cameos for Lynch regular Harry Dean Stanton and Lynch himself as a hearing impaired FBI agent.
     But in FWWM’S final ninety minutes Lynch regains his footing with a vengeance. The violence and sleaze are among the most graphic and impacting of any Lynch film, and there are moments of mind-tugging surrealism equal to anything in ERASERHEAD or INLAND EMPIRE (such as Laura’s dream-revelation of what lurks inside the open door of a painting on her wall). Yet what really distinguishes the film is, surprisingly enough, its realistic portrayal of the travails of an incest victim. Sheryl Lee is unforgettable as Laura Palmer, making the character’s sense of hopelessness and self-loathing terrifyingly palpable. Lee claims she’s received quite a few encouraging missives from real-life incest victims, so evidently she did something right. So too the film overall.
 

Vital Statistics

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME
New Line Cinema

Director: David Lynch
Producers: Gregg Fienberg
Screenplay: David lynch, Mark Engels
Cinematography: Ron Garcia
Editing: Mary Sweeney
Cast: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie, Moira Kelly, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Kiefer Sutherland, Harry Dean Stanton, Kyle MacLachlan, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Pamela Gidley, Harry Dean Stanton, Lenny von Dohlen, David Lynch

     

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